How Being Sad, Depressed And Anxious Online Became Trendy

I’ve definitely noticed this trend. I’m guilty of it too.

Please comment on the original post. - by F. Kaskais

How Being Sad, Depressed And Anxious Online Became Trendy

Social media personas built on the illusion of happy, perfect lives are so tired. In 2019, it’s all about being Sad Online.


“Trendy” emotional distress on social media is part of many must-follow accounts across all platforms. Whether by retweeting the depressing relatability of the So Sad Today Twitter account (at 855,000 followers as of this writing) or commenting the obligatory “same” on a MyTherapistSays Instagram post (currently at 3.6 million). As recently immortalized by a Tim Robinson sketch in I Think You Should Leave, even if you do post pictures where you look cute and happy, it must be accompanied by a self-deprecating caption.

The era of being Sad Online is defined by a sense of reverse FOMO, a tacit agreement to redefine being cool on the internet through JOMO (the Joy of Missing Out) — then file it under social anxiety. It’s possible, though…

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Rich people are more narcissistic and less ethical.


Time Magazine published several articles citing studies showing that the wealthy are more narcissistic and less ethical than average folks.

Wealthy Selfies:  How Being Rich Increases Narcissism

Why The Rich Are Less Ethical:  They See Greed as Good

The Rich are Different: More Money, Less Empathy

Contrary to popular belief, the rich give less of their income to charity than even poor people, by percentage of income.   The poor are more, not less, likely to be grateful and less, not more, likely to feel entitled than the rich.

I think these articles explain a lot about our current government, which is full of narcissistic, unethical, even criminal billionaires, their wealthy donors (The Koch Brothers, the Mercers, Russian oligarchs, and others) and the apparently unlimited power they wield.   Great wealth, insatiable greed and a sense of entitlement is what has allowed these people to take control of all three branches of government and gerrymander state elections.  Sure, both parties are corrupt and there are rich donors on the left too (the alt-right loves to scream about George Soros), but they haven’t had nearly the influence the donors on the GOP side have had, and at least their donations are transparent — they don’t hide behind front organizations the way the Kochs or the Mercers do.   We must get the money out of politics now.

#22 – Proof That Borderlines Are Motivated for Psychotherapy and Can Fully Recover

BPDTransformation used to be one of my commenters but has not posted anything in his blog in over a year, or made any more comments here.   Edward (his real name) wrote fascinating, intelligent, and extremely well researched articles about BPD, which he was diagnosed with. At some point he came to believe BPD was a bogus diagnosis, a catchall for an array of symptoms that weren’t easily classified or understood. (Some people believe BPD and C-PTSD are the same disorder, which does make sense to me).

Edward, who became BPD-free, writes here about how motivated many borderlines are to recover, and how effective psychotherapy can be in healing this disorder. This flies in the face of the common belief that because BPD is in the Cluster B group of personality disorders, that it’s just something you have to resign to yourself to having forever.

The article, like all of Edward’s articles, is a bit on the scholarly side, but is still a very good read and helps reduce the stigma against people with BPD.

BPD Transformation

This post will answer critics who say: “Borderlines are not motivated to attend therapy. Borderline patients don’t stay in treatment. At best, therapy can manage but not cure BPD.”

These statements are absolutely false. Yet these myths continue to appear online, often being communicated to people recently diagnosed. As the studies below demonstrate, most people diagnosed with BPD do want help, most will stay in good treatment, and most do recover to different degrees.

Earlier posts have elaborated my dim view of the (non) validity of the BPD diagnosis. Since it cites studies using the BPD construct, this post might be viewed as hypocritical. That may be a valid criticism! Nevertheless, these studies provide evidence that people with “borderline symptoms”, however defined, can be motivated and recover both with and without therapy

Study 1:  88 Borderline Patients Treated Twice a Week for Three Years

Highlights: Led by Josephine Giesen at…

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The Adverse Childhood Experience study (CDC)

Under my post Adult Poverty and Scapegoat-hood: A Connection?,  one of my commenters (katiesdream2004) mentioned a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the mid-late 90’s that researched the connection between adverse childhood experiences (which includes emotional abuse by parents and early caregivers) and ill health and general low quality of life in adulthood.  I decided to Google it and here’s what I found.

From their webpage:


The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations ever conducted to assess associations between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being. The study is a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente’s Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego.

More than 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) members undergoing a comprehensive physical examination chose to provide detailed information about their childhood experience of abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction. To date, more than 50 scientific articles have been published and more than100 conference and workshop presentations have been made.

The ACE Study findings suggest that certain experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death as well as poor quality of life in the United States. It is critical to understand how some of the worst health and social problems in our nation can arise as a consequence of adverse childhood experiences. Realizing these connections is likely to improve efforts towards prevention and recovery.

A correlation was found:

Childhood abuse, neglect, and exposure to other traumatic stressors which we term adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are common. Almost two-thirds of our study participants reported at least one ACE, and more than one of five reported three or more ACE. The short- and long-term outcomes of these childhood exposures include a multitude of health and social problems.

The ACE Study uses the ACE Score, which is a total count of the number of ACEs reported by respondents. The ACE Score is used to assess the total amount of stress during childhood and has demonstrated that as the number of ACE increase, the risk for the following health problems increases in a strong and graded fashion:

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Fetal death
Health-related quality of life
Illicit drug use
Ischemic heart disease (IHD)
Liver disease
Risk for intimate partner violence
Multiple sexual partners
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Suicide attempts
Unintended pregnancies
Early initiation of smoking
Early initiation of sexual activity
Adolescent pregnancy

None of this should be surprising. Abuse early in life, whether emotional or physical, takes a huge toll on a person’s sense of self-worth and these people tend to enter adulthood lacking the emotional, financial and practical tools others have to create a healthy and successful life. They also lack the support systems others do, and I would guess the enormous stress of facing challenges that others get help with also has ill effects on health and wellbeing.

I did notice the list mainly includes unhealthy life “choices” such as smoking, illicit drug taking, and early pregnancy. However, I also see depression and general health problems on the list too. I’d include other mental illnesses such as PTSD, Complex PTSD, Borderline Personality Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder, and Social Anxiety, all which interfere with a person’s ability to function well in the working world and in interpersonal relationships. These mental disorders could also cause a person to make “bad choices” such as smoking or sexual promiscuity.  Some, like Social Anxiety or Avoidant Personality Disorder, could cause a person who doesn’t engage in unhealthy behaviors, to be afraid to take any risks in life, limiting their opportunities and setting them up for failure.

More research needs to be done, particularly on the connection between emotional/narcissistic abuse during childhood and poverty later in life.

You can read more on their website:

Preliminary results of the Parental Narcissism Survey are here!


Back in February, I was approached by a researcher, Ph.D candidate Valerie Berenice Coles of the University of Georgia, who asked me to post a survey on this site to collect data from ACONs about parental narcissism and the effects it had on participants. In June, I was asked to repost the survey again, because more participants were needed to complete the study. I promised to post the results when I had them. This morning I received an email from Valerie, with the preliminary results, so here they are.

Thanks again to everyone for helping us develop and validate a measure of parental narcissism! The response from the ACON community was tremendous and we are the envy of our colleagues that so many of you took time out of your lives to help us with this research.

We currently have a paper from the questionnaire out at an academic journal for review. If it is accepted for publication, we will update this message with a link for the article. Below is a brief and general review of some of our findings. When the scale and findings are published, you will have the opportunity to look at more specifics. Please note that some of the results may seem “common sense” but we needed to build off a foundation of empirical research since, as you know, there is presently no published scale that measures parental narcissism behaviors from the perspective of the adult child, and very little research in general. Thank you again!

Scale Development/Study 1:

Our goal was to develop a measure of parental narcissism. We started with 36-items. 1,236 people took this original scale, 976 of which were ACONS from 34 countries. We examined whether the 36-items worked together as a scale. We eliminated items that were problematic and ended up with 18 items that assessed four dimensions of parental narcissism: lack of empathy/indifference, negative grandiosity, center of attention, public versus private personas.

Lack of Empathy/Indifference. A lack of empathy is a key characteristic of narcissism. On the ACON sites, the lack of empathy is often described behaviorally as indifference and examples given by ACONS of parental indifference include the parent minimizing the feelings of the child and a lack of interest in the child’s feelings.

Negative Grandiosity. Grandiosity is “an inflated appraisal of one’s worth, knowledge, importance or identity.” Measures that assess grandiosity from the narcissists’ perspective, not surprisingly, focus on the positive side of grandiosity (“I am the best!”). From the ACON perspective, however, it is the negative grandiosity, that occurs especially when the narcissistic parent feels under attack and, thus, vulnerable. From the ACON perspective, when a narcissistic parent fails or is in the spotlight for not being a good parent, her/his insecurity can result in grandiose statements that reflect the parent is “the worst parent in the world” or “no one loves me.”

Center of Attention. Center of attention dimension reflects the positive, inflated, self-absorbed, and individualistic disposition of the narcissist. For the narcissist, the world is about “I” and “me” never “you” or “we.” From the ACON perspective, nothing is about the child unless it benefits the parent in some way. ACONs also write about how conversations focus around the parent’s interests rather than the child’s.

Public versus Private Personas. Narcissists can carefully construct their self-presentation in public such that they appear less negative in public than in private, at least in the short term. While differing public/private personas is not a characteristic typically measured by narcissism scales, it is a behavior often noted by ACONS who write of parents who present a friendly, charming persona only in public.

These 18-items formed into these four dimensions of parental narcissism behavior (lack of empathy, negative grandiosity, center of attention, and different public/private personas). The four dimensions all correlated highly with each other and together the four formed a final “Perceived Parental Narcissistic Behavior” (PPNBI) scale. To create the PPNBI scale, we summed up the scores on the 18 items.

What is the PPNBI Related to for the ACON?

ACONS who took the parental narcissism scale also completed some scales about themselves. Here are some of our findings:

*Higher scores on parental narcissism (PPNBI) were positively associated with ACONs feeling depressed as a teen and also with feeling depressed within the last year.

*Higher scores on parental narcissism (PPNBI) were negatively associated with feelings of well-being as a teen and with feelings of well-being in the last year.

*ACONS with higher scores on the parental narcissism scale were more likely to indicate you don’t trust other people, in general.

What other measures of the narcissistic parent is the PPNBI related to?

Scores of parental narcissism are:

*Negatively associated with feeling that your parent cares for you and negatively associated with feeling like your parent gave you freedom to be yourself/do what you wanted to do.

*Positively associated with idealizing one child in the family (aka: a golden child) and with devaluing a child (aka: a scapegoat).

*Very strongly related to verbal aggression. The higher the scores of parental narcissism, the more verbally aggressive the parent acted.


Study 2

In study 2, we tested the 18-item scale again to see if it worked the same way and generated the four factors (lack of empathy, center of attention, negative grandiosity and different public/private personas). In Study 2, 625 participated (505 were ACONS from 34 countries).

We did replicate the findings from Study 1 that found these four factors and that the four factors all worked together to form the Perceived Parental Narcissistic Behavior Index (PPNBI).

What other measures of the parent is the PPNBI related to?

In Study 2 we found further evidence that the PPNBI is a valid and reliable score. For example, that the PPNBI was positively associated with a typical measure of narcissism (Narcissistic Personality Inventory). This was good news as it provides us evidence that our scale IS capturing narcissistic behavior.

Additionally, we found that the PPNBI was negatively related to a parent being perceived as agreeable and positively associated with a parent being perceived as extraverted. For the ACON, we found that those who rated their parent high on the PPNBI were more likely to negatively associate with the secure attachment style and positively associate with the fearful attachment style.

Finally, parents who score high on the PPNBI were also more likely to score highly on parentification, which is a term for making the kids do the work of a parent. The more narcissistic your parent, the more likely the parent had expectations that the kids would take care of things a parent would normally do.


In conclusion, the goal of this research was to develop and provide initial validation data for the Perceived Parental Narcissistic Behavior Index (PPNBI). The identification of perceived parental narcissism is critical to gain a better understanding of and illuminate the unique challenges ACONs encounter. Before the PPNBI, no measure allowed family members to assess whether a parental figure was narcissistic. The PPNBI is an 18-item measure that taps into four types of parental narcissistic behavior: lack of empathy, center of attention, negative grandiosity, and different public/private personas. The PPNBI correlates with a known measure of narcissism and correlates with being verbally aggressive and caring less about one’s children. The PPNBI is positively associated with ACONs depression and negatively associated with their well-being and ability to trust others.

Across both studies, 1,481 ACONs worldwide from 48 countries participated and many webmasters generously posted the study URL on their web pages (THANK YOU!). This is the first study for either of us where we received over 100 emails from participants thanking us for doing the research and letting us know how meaningful it is that researchers are paying attention to the ACON population and their family dynamics.

As we mentioned above, the full research from this study is under review at a journal. If it is accepted and published, we will be delighted to send you a link to the research (we can’t do this until the work is published). We can’t thank all of you enough for helping out with our research. The $100 gift cards were selected by a random drawing and have already been mailed to the winners.

Again, many thanks!

Valerie B. Coles & Jennifer Monahan

Second chance to participate in parental narcissism survey!


To all ACONs:

I emailed Valerie Berenice Coles, Ph.D candidate from The University of Georgia to find out when the results of the survey about parental narcissism I posted about back in the winter would be published. I received this reply:

Hi Lauren,

Thank you so much for you email! I promise I have not forgotten about the report. After concluding the first study we received so many request from individuals that missed the study that we opened another study for those who missed the first one and are including those responses in the report (which WILL be sent out this summer). If you happen to have any readers who did not participate in the first study but are interested in getting involved (there is only 1 $100 gift card this time), the link is:

This study will be up through June. If you have any other questions, please let me know!

Valerie Berenice Coles, MA
PhD Student, Research Project Manager
Graduate Assistant to Franklin College of Arts and Sciences Student Ambassadors Program
University of Georgia
Department of Communication Studies
Caldwell Hall


So, for any ACONs who did not have a chance to participate in the first survey, which ended on February 28th, here is another chance to help out and possibly win a $100 gift card too.

The survey will only take about 15 minutes of your time but those 15 minutes will be invaluable in helping to find out more about this very important topic.

As I did the last time, I will be posting a link to the survey in the sidebar.
Again, here is the link to the second survey:

Also, as soon as the results are available from the first study, I’ll be posting them here.

“The Sensitive Gene: Why Some People Are Born To Feel Emotions Harder”

The Sensitive Gene: Why Some People Are Born to Feel Emotions Harder
By Alexia LaFata for Elite Daily:


Scientists have long debated what exactly makes us who we are. Are our qualities more influenced by our social environment, or are we naturally inclined to be a certain way? Or — to complicate things even further — does our environment affect the way these natural tendencies display themselves?

Well, when it comes to the reasons why we do the things we do, the most complicated answer is usually the correct one.

In recent decades, the government has spent billions of dollars on gene research with the goal of trying to explain how the genes we were born with express themselves in our everyday lives.

Psychologists are optimistic — though cautiously — these advancements in gene research will help us understand ourselves better.

We haven’t even scratched the surface of the full potential of genetic research, but what we have seen so far looks promising.

One human quality that genetics has attempted to help explain is sensitivity. People who are highly sensitive tend to respond more emotionally to their environments.

They are more inclined to cry during sad movies, jump to use social media to share something that moved them and feel heightened levels of sympathy for poor people and their friends who just got dumped.

Most notably, they are also more inclined to have a negative attention bias, which means they focus more on the negative things in their environment than the positive things.

This bias causes sensitive people great anxiety, especially if the environment they’re responding to is new.

Where do these traits come from? Why are some people more likely than others to respond more powerfully to their environment? In other words, why are some people so damn sensitive?

If this sounds like you, fear not: It turns out the answers to those questions do, indeed, have something to do with the way you were born.

Researchers from the University of California, Monmouth University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that being sensitive is an innate trait that’s identifiable by physiological reactions, patterns of brain behavior and genes.

In their study, 18 participants viewed photos of either frowning or smiling faces. The researchers then scanned the participants’ brain activity while they looked at the photos to assess how emotional their responses were.

They found that people, who were considered to have sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) had greater blood flow to areas of the brain involved with emotion, awareness and empathy — indicating physical evidence of the presence of the sensitivity trait. This occurred regardless of whether they were looking at the sad or happy photo.

Another 2012 study examined biological proof of sensitivity even further. In the study, researchers Rachael Grazioplene, Colin DeYoung, Fred Rogosch and Dante Cicchetti studied the cholinergic system, a system in our bodies that determines how we respond to new environments and how sensitive we are to stimuli.

The cholinergic system becomes activated when we experience “expected uncertainty,” which happens when we’re placed in situations where we predict we will learn something new.

For example, when you were a freshman in college, you probably knew you’d be confronted with new experiences.

You experienced those feelings of “expected uncertainty” — of not knowing who your friends would be, what you wanted to major in, what clubs you wanted to join, how you would handle living away from home and so on.

Some of your peers might have perceived those new experiences as anxiety-inducing, meaning they would have proceeded with caution. Others might have seen them as intriguing, causing them to have been more inclined to explore.


The way both of these groups of people responded to those new environments was influenced by genetic variants in their cholinergic systems.

In her study, Grazioplene and her colleagues studied variations in the CHRNA4 gene, a key cholinergic receptor and determinant of whether you see the aforementioned kinds of “expected uncertainty” as threatening or exciting.

It wouldn’t be enough to say this genetic variant was the sole determinant, though, so the study also examined how, in conjunction with the variation in the CHRNA4 gene, an individual’s upbringing and social environment affected how he or she perceived uncertainty.

To study the functions of this variation, the researchers set up a week-long camp for 614 children, ages 8 through 13, all of whom came from the same socioeconomic background, but had different upbringings: Half of the children had an upbringing in which they had been maltreated with neglect or emotional, sexual or physical abuse, and the other half had an upbringing in which they had not been maltreated.

The children with the genetic variation who grew up in an abusive environment were more likely to perceive the new camp environment as threatening, and the children with the same genetic variation who had grown up in a normal environment were more likely to perceive the new environment as intriguing. Even more interestingly, these results were true regardless of age, sex or race.

Now, what does this mean? It means that, yes, there is certainly a genetic variant that makes you more inclined to be anxious or curious in new environments, but your upbringing and social environment play a role in determining which one of those two it will be.

And while this specific genetic variant is rare — only one percent of the population actually have it — it gives valuable insight into the way psychologists and scientists study behavioral patterns in relation to both genetics and environment.

So, if you’ve sobbed during “The Notebook,” impulsively shared a video on Facebook of a kitten rolling around in a patch of grass that made you tear up or found yourself crying with your best friend when her boyfriend dumped her, take comfort in the fact that you were probably born this way — feels and all.

Alexia LaFata is a Writer covering culture and lifestyle for Elite Daily. She’s a proud New Jersey native and soon-to-be Boston College graduate, and her work is featured on Thought Catalog and VentureBeat. Stalk her at

Important news for everyone who participated in Parental Narcissism Survey


I may have already posted about this, but I just got a new email from Valerie Coles of the University of Georgia and she has added some additional information that may interest some of you.

I emailed her back and asked her to please send me the results when they’re tabulated. I asked her if I could post them here (because I know a lot of you have expressed interest), or if I need to wait until the study gets published first. I would love to be able to post the results here!

As I get more information, I’ll definitely keep everyone informed, as much as I’m allowed.

Here is Valerie’s email to me:

Hi, Lauren,

Below is the thank you/follow-up email I previously sent you. If you are willing, please post this or some version of this thank you on your site, so that our participants also are aware of our extreme gratitude. The message below is the same with the exception of the updated country count – people helped out from 32 different countries!! Additionally, we have received a number of emails from individuals who missed the survey the first time around. We did close data collection on February 27th. However, we will have a smaller study soon available to those who did not participate the first time. Anyone interested may email me at The link for the large study that you helped us with has been discontinued. THANK YOU AGAIN FOR ALL OF YOUR AID!

First, thank you for your help in featuring, distributing, and/or participating in our study! We are truly amazed and humbled at how many ACONs took our survey. We had 978 respondents from at least 32 countries, 16 websites that we personally contacted participate, and then many more websites that you and your readers, our respondents, forwarded the survey to. Never in our wildest imagination did we think that so many ACONs would step up and help us out. We are examining our findings over the next six weeks and when we have a summary of the results then. As I mentioned in previous emails, I will be sending this summary out to all the known websites that participated as well as to any individuals who requested a summary.

Meanwhile, we did the drawing today for the ten $100 gift cards. Anyone who entered their email address at the end of the survey was eligible for the drawing. There were 711 emails in the drawing! The ten winners were contacted today via email to get their full name/address so we can mail the gift cards to them. At the start of the study we had agreed not to publicize their names (as ACONs may not want narcissistic family members to know that they are part of an ACON site) but, of course, if one of the winners is part of your site, we hope that person will let the rest of the group know s/he was a recipient.

Again, we truly appreciate your help and we hope through this study that we can create a short useful questionnaire for people to use to help identify narcissistic parents. The success of this study would not have been possible without you.

I look forward to emailing you again in several weeks with the summary. Thank you again!

Valerie Berenice Coles, MA
PhD Student, Research Project Manager
Graduate Assistant to Franklin College of Arts and Sciences Student Ambassadors Program
University of Georgia
Department of Communication Studies
Caldwell Hall